A vasana literally means ‘wishing’ or ‘desiring’, but is used in Advaita in the sense of the sub-conscious or latent tendencies in one’s nature.
VAASANA also means habitual impressions or preferences or tendencies being carried (from past births) by the subtle body in this birth.
We find people in spite of being God fearing, Religious or Spiritual are not able to overcome their negative Habit patterns and Tendencies (Bad Vasanas and Samskaras referred in scriptures) causing mental pains , guilt consciousness and untold sufferings. We can call these habit patterns in their dormant state as impurities in mind responsible for actions leading to bondage and nourishing pain bodies and unconscious minds blocking the individual to know his or her true nature of being one with the absolute one non- dual undifferentiated consciousness.
Daiva Naama Smaranam (dwelling in God or chanting His names) or Meditation in Self for a very long time may result in tuning the mind inward leading to gradual reduction of intensity and impact of Vaasanas.
A vessel with filthy water and foul smell , if continuously filled with crystal clear PURE water , that pure water will gradually fill the vessel and slowly remove the filth and smell and after some time the vessel will only be with crystal clear Pure Water. Similarly One has to continuously fill his mind with good thoughts, God’s names and pastimes to remove the dirt and filth in the mind and to reach a stage of absolute mental purity. Rigorous and continuous practice by training the mind through concentration and mediation for a definite length of time is necessary for achieving mental purity and stability.
Vasanas are actually continuation of poorva janma (previous births) desires in the form of preferences and habits. When a persons desires remains unfulfilled in life, the same become his vasana on rebirth.
Due to vasanas and samskaras, the so called prodigies are born. Say a man is learning music and practicing the same for many years but never gets recognition, fame and wealth in his lifetime, When he dies his desire turns into Vasana and on next birth he becomes a great musician at a very young age because the previous learning has returned back to his memory automatically in next birth. Similarly a person who has great desire to enjoy beautiful woman but never could find even one in his lifetime, His vasana for woman comes with him on rebirth and he becomes a womaniser. Like this every Vasana comes on rebirth with the soul.
Vasanas-how They Manifest
According to Swami Sivananda, Vasana (desire in subtle form) is a wave in the mind-lake. Its seat is the Karana Sarira. It exists there in the form of a seed and manifests in the mind-lake. Just as flowers are latent in seeds, Vasanas are latent in the Antahkarana and the Karana Sarira (seed-body). Daily new flowers blossom out. They fade out in a day or two. Similarly, Vasanas blossom out like flowers one by one, come out to the surface of the mind, generate Sankalpas in the mind of Jivas and goad them to strive to possess and enjoy the particular objects of enjoyment. Vasanas cause actions, and actions strengthen the Vasanas. This is a Chakra, vicious circle. On the advent of knowledge of Brahman, all Vasanas are fried out. The real enemies are the Vasanas within. Annihilate them. Eradicate them. They are inveterate.
The whole mango tree with branches, leaves and fruits is contained in a subtle form in the seed. It takes time for manifestation. Even so, the Vasana of lust lurks in the mind when you are a boy, manifests at 18, fills the whole body at 25, works havoc from 25 to 45 and then it gradually declines. Various forms of wrong-doing and mischief are done by human beings between 25 and 45. This is the most critical period of life. There is no particular difference between a boy and a girl in their characteristics when they are young. After attaining puberty they exhibit their characteristic qualities.
Chapalata is Vasana of a mild type. It lasts for a short time only. There are two kinds of important Chapalatas. There is the Jihva-Chapalata of the tongue where the tongue wants to eat the various things every now and then. It is a form of morbid appetite. Rich people who lead a luxurious life have this form of Chapalata. The other variety is the Upastha-Chapalata wherein the sex Indriyas wants to taste again and again the sexual enjoyment (Sparsa).
Vasana Causes Restlessness And Bondage
Vasana is the cause of restlessness of mind. As soon as a Vasana manifests, there is an intimate connection between the mind and the object through overflowing Vishaya-Vritti-Pravaha. The mind will not retrace its steps till it gets the object and enjoys it. The restlessness will continue till the object is enjoyed. The Vritti will flow towards the object till it is obtained and enjoyed. The common run of men cannot resist or suppress any Vasana owing to weak will.
It is the Vasana in the mind that causes attraction towards objects and brings about bondage; with the disappearance of Vasanas, bondage naturally vanishes. There will not be any attraction, admiration or excitement for any object outside, if there is no Vasana inside your mind. It is the Vasana that is at the bottom of all your miseries and troubles. There is no pain from Isvara-Srishti (objects created by the Lord). Water quenches your thirst. Breeze gives you comfort. Sunshine enlivens you. Fire gives warmth. It is Jiva-Srishti that brings about bondage. Ahankara, anger, Abhimana, attachment are all Jiva-Srishtis. Have Suddha Sankalpa, but no Vasanas.
By mere ethical training, jealousy, Raga, Dvesha, Krodha, Kama, etc., can be suppressed though not eradicated completely. These impure, Asubha Vasanas can be considerably attenuated (Tanu-Avastha) by moral culture. They attain a subtle condition. They cannot harm the individual. They remain under perfect control.
Eradication, Not Suppression, The Proper Remedy
A Vasana may be suppressed for the time being by an aspirant. But it again manifests with redoubled force when a suitable opportunity arises. Like a minister obeying the king, the five organs of the body act in accordance with the dictates of the mind. Therefore, you should through your own pure mind and proper efforts eradicate the Vasanas for objects. You should rend asunder, the long rope of Vasanas tied to the vessels of man, whirled on the ocean of Samsara, through enormous efforts on your part. Vasanas should be thoroughly eradicated. If these Vasanas are destroyed by Vichara (enquiry of Atman) and discrimination, the mind which is ever restless will get quiescence like a gheeless lamp.
How To Destroy Vasanas
Vijnanamaya Kosa serves as a great fortress for the aspirant. From there he can attack the Vasanas when they try to emerge from the seed-body (Karana Sarira) into the mind. Through the practice of Sama, the aspirant should destroy the Vasanas one by one with the help of Vijnanamaya Kosa (Buddhi). He should crush them as soon as they try to raise their heads on the surface of the mind-lake. He must not allow them to sprout forth. This is Vasana-Tyaga. This attack or fight is from inside.
When a Vasana or Sankalpa arises in the mind, the mind gives a push to the Antar-Indriya. From the Antar-Indriyas, this push is communicated to the Bahyakaranas (external instruments) such as hands, legs, eyes, ears, etc. The practice of Sama stops this very push which is the root cause of motion of all the Indriyas and Karanas.
Sama is peace of mind produced by the eradication of the Vasanas (Vasana-Tyaga). The Antahkarana of a man who possesses this virtue is cooler than ice. Even the coolness of the moon cannot compete with coolness of the Antahkarana of a man of Sama. Generally, the Antahkarana of a worldling is a blazing furnace. A man of Sama is neither exalted when he gets a desired object (Ishta) nor depressed when he gets an undesired thing (Anishta). He keeps a balanced mind always. He has no enemies. The happiness of an emperor is nothing, nothing when compared with the supreme spiritual bliss of a man of Sama. Sama is one of the four sentinels of Moksha. If you have Sama, you will get the company of the other three friends, viz., Santosha (contentment), Vichara (enquiry into Atman) and Satsanga (association with the wise and saintly).
The attack should commence from outside also. Bahyavritti-Nigraha should be done through Dama (restraint of the Indriyas). You must not allow sense-vibrations to enter from outside into the mind through the avenues of Indriyas. This is also necessary. Sama alone is not sufficient. The senses must be rendered blunt by Dama. The Vasana for sweets, for instance, should be destroyed by Sama through Vasana-Tyaga, by crushing the Vasanas within as soon as a desire arises; and the Bahyavritti, which arises by the sight of sweetmeat should be destroyed by withdrawing the eyes from the same when you move about the bazaar and by giving up taking sugar. Dama supplements Sama in the control of mind. Dama is an auxiliary for the complete eradication of Vasanas.
If you give up an old habit of taking tea, you have controlled to a certain extent the sense of taste. You have destroyed one Vasana. This will give you some peace, because the craving for tea has gone and you are freed from your efforts and thinking in getting tea, sugar, milk, etc. Thinking is pain, seeing is pain, hearing is pain for a philosopher and a Sadhaka. It is all pleasure for a worldling. The energy that was agitating you to run after tea is now transmuted into will. You gain peace and will-power by giving up one thing. If you give up fifteen things, your peace of mind will be still greater and the will still more powerful. This is the fruit of Tyaga. So, you are not a loser in Tyaga. You gain more knowledge, more bliss and more power. You give up something in favour of something higher. Is there anyone who will not give up black sugar in favour of white sugar? If you once control one Vasana, it will be easy for you to control other Vasanas too, because you gain strength and power.
Svadhyaya and Meditation
Increase your Sastra-Vasana in the beginning. Occupy your mind with the study of standard philosophical books. Thereby you can decrease your Deha-Vasana (thought of the body) and Loka-Vasana (desire for name and fame, Kirti, Pratishtha, etc). Later on, you will have to give up Sastra-Vasana also. You must entirely devote all your time and energy in meditation and meditation alone. Vasana-Kshaya (destruction of Vasanas) is caused through well-conducted deliberation (Vichara), Brahma-Dhyana, Vairagya and Tyaga.
Vichara and Brahma-Bhavana
The wise know that the mind associated with Vasana tends to bondage while the mind absolutely free from Vasana is said to be an emancipated one. Just as a lion that is shut up in a cage emerges out by breaking the bars of the cage, so also a Jnani comes out of this cage of physical body victoriously by breaking or by destroying the Vasanas of the mind through constant Vichara (Atmic enquiry), constant Nididhyasana (profound and constant meditation on ‘OM’ and its meaning) and Brahma-Bhavana. The more you attenuate your Vasanas by Svarupa-Bhavana or the Brahma-Bhavana, the happier you will become. In proportion to the thinning of the Vasanas, the mind also is proportionately thinned out. Mind is nothing but a bundle of Vasanas. Mind is no other than the Vasanas which generate an endless series of rebirths. The true nature of the mind is the Vasanas. The two are synonymous.
Conquest of Ahankara
If you destroy egoism (Ahankara, this false little ‘I’) and control the Indriyas (the senses), the Vasanas will die by themselves. The root cause for all troubles is Ahankara. Just as the dependants of a family hang upon the chief of the house- the father-similarly, all Vasanas, Trishnas, Kamanas, etc., hang upon Ahankara, the chief of this house-body.
Constantly generate from the Sattvic mind-battery the Akhanda electric current ‘Aham Brahmasmi’-Vritti (Brahmakara Vritti). That is the potent antidote. Keep it safe in the pocket; smell it when an apoplectic attack of the Ahankaric false ‘I’ idea overcomes you. It is only when you eradicate the painful Ahankara of the mind and conquer the foes of organs (Indriyas) that the ever-waking Vasanas will subside.
The Meaning Of Moksha
The illusory Samsaric Vasanas that have arisen through the practice of many hundreds of lives never perish except through the practice of Yoga for a long time. Therefore, O Aspirants! After having put away at a distance the desire of enjoyment by discriminative efforts, practise the state of mind absolutely devoid of Vasana.
Moksha does not mean physical separation from all worldly affairs, but only a state of mind bereft of all impure Vasanas or clinging to worldly things, but yet working as usual amidst them. You must realise God in and through the world. This is the central teaching of the Gita. “But the disciplined (lower) self, moving among sense-objects with senses free from attraction and repulsion and mastered by the higher Self, goeth to Peace” (Gita. II-64). This is the central teaching of Yoga Vasishtha also.
There is no Vasana in Brahman.
Complete annihilation of the Vasanas takes place only in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Only Nirvikalpa Samadhi can completely fry up the seeds of impure Vasanas. Through the knowledge of Brahman, there will be an extinction of all Vasanas, which form the medium of enjoyments. With the extinction of all Vasanas, the undaunted mind will get quiescence like a gheeless lamp.
Now the question is how to remove vasana? Sage Pathanjali calls them as aklishta vruttis which can be removed by Klishta vruttis (klishta vruttis are prayer, meditation, Satsanga, Bhajan,kirtan, etc). But there is the danger of Klishta vrutti also becoming vasana. So the sage advises that first you remove all akilshta vruttis by using klishta vrutti and then throw away the klishta vrutti also so that mind is pure and free without vasana .This is called the state of a nirvikalpa yogi.
In Day by Day, entry dated 11th Jan 1946, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi says:
All the age long Vasanas carry the mind outward and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that, effort is necessary for most people. Of course, everybody, every book says: ‘Summa Iru’ (in Tamil) i.e ‘Be quiet or still.’ But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if we find one has at once achieved the ‘mauna’ or supreme state indicated by ‘Summa Iru’, you may take it that effort has already been finished in a previous life.
The three types of vasanas (by Swami Chidananda)
The three types of vasanas that obstruct Self- knowledge (Viveka Choodamani): Loka vasana, deha vasana and sastra vasana. . The vasanas hold a powerful hold over the seeker’s mind ,though he has studied the sastras , he is still not able to free himself from the imperfection within because the mind is sullied by the powerful hold of the vasanas.
1. Loka vasana : when we fashion our lives according to the standards set up by society and when we want to earn others’ appreciation and respect by imitating its false and wrong habits , then it is called loka vasana. – worldly tendency . . The first thing that we have to do is to stop living up to the Joneses. . A seeker has to learn not to live according to others’ opinion but to learn to accept censure and praise alike. .
2. Sastra vasana : Only reveling in the thoughts of the sastras, being attracted by the intellectual thrill that this knowledge provides , without living this knowledge is called sastra vasana . ( most of us seekers , I am sure , will fall under this category ). Sastras are only pointers to the Truth . One has to renounce the pointer and turn in the direction indicated by the pointer . The intellectual thrill one gets from the study of the sastras is not the very Experience itself of the Self , it is like mistaking the menu-card for the food. . One should not become excessively preoccupied with the study of the sastras. . The Vedas ,themselves, warn us seekers as to how the pre- occupation with studies could become an impediment to our spiritual progress.
3. Deha vasana : . The clinging attachment to the body and sense pleasures is called deha vasana . Sankaracarya says ” whoever seeks to rediscover the Self , while devoting himself to fattening of the body is like one who proceeds to cross a river on the back of a crocodile , mistaking it for a log of wood ” . The body is just a vehicle given to us for our spiritual journey. , to reach the Supreme . .The body has to be fed properly and kept perfectly fit , but the seeker has to give up living in the flesh as the flesh and recognise that he is much more than the body.
So long as the seeker remains in these vasanas , bondage will continue to exist. , inspite of the intellectual conviction that the Self is of the nature of Sat- Cit -Ananda.